An Eid ‘Celebrated’ Silently In Seclusion Was A Recent First

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by Tasavur Mushtaq

SRINAGAR: On Sunday Kashmir celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr amid scare and seclusion. Reports reaching from length and breadth of Kashmir suggested severe restrictions were imposed across the region. No formal congregation prayers were held, at least in the urban and semi-urban spaces. However, there were reports of small gatherings in the interior parts of the cities, towns and most of the peripheries.

Moon Sighting

A glimpse of the crescent marks the conclusion of the holy month of Ramzan and announces the onset of Shawwal, the next month in Islamic lunar calendar, which is the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the two major Muslim festivals across the globe. However, this year the conclusion of the Muslim month of fasting was not as smooth as it used to be.

Youngsters in Kashmir periphery have it a try but could not trace the crescent. Photo: Facebook

On Saturday, May 23, the 29th day of Ramzan, the new Shawaal moon played its part in a fair bit of controversy and confusion amongst people.

With Kashmir waiting for the confirmation to decide about the day of Eid, the first news came from Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry. Citing calculations made by his ministry, Fawad said Eid-ul-Fitr will be celebrated in Pakistan on Sunday.

This did not go well with the clergy. Chairman of Pakistan’s Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman reacted sharply. “Fawad Chaudhry has no standing. We are bound to the Shariat,” said Mufti.

As the confusion was continuing in Pakistan, Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jamia Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, said the moon could not be sighted today so the Eid-ul-Fitr will be celebrated on May 25. “Eid-ul-Fitr to be celebrated on May 25 as the moon could not be sighted today. It’s important that we take precautions & maintain social distancing. We should stay away from shaking hands & hugging. We should follow govt’s guidelines,” Bukhari was quoted saying by media.

Corona changed the contours.
Maintaining the distance, a group of people offering Eid prayers in the interiors of Dal Lake Srinagar on Sunday, May 24, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

In Kashmir, there was no final word. Different accounts, different dimensions. The social media was trending to see which way the tide will move. The tension in homes was to whether to prepare sehri or make Eid dishes. In between, the Taraweeh prayers were offered. “After many years this type of uncertainty prevailed,” said Kounsar, a resident of Bemina.

As the discussion was going on to decide about the day, the majority of the homes prepared sehri. By the time it got ready, people started preparing to retire for the few hours so that they can get up early and have their Sehri. At around 11 in the night, Pakistan’s Mufti announced the sighting of the moon for the month of Shawwal, finally. He said the moon sighted today was “very sensitive” and the committee received multiple testimonies of moon-sighting including from Chaman, Pasni, and various other places.

Members of different families assembled in an open space in their locality and offered Eid-ul-Fitr prayer at Dal Lake on Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Srinagar. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Moments later, Kashmir’s Grand Mufti Nasir ul Islam said that Eid-ul-Fitr will be celebrated across J&K on Sunday as the moon was “sighted”. “I felicitate the people of J&K on the auspicious occasion of Eid. I pray to Almighty Allah may this Eid be the harbinger of peace and prosperity for the entire J&K and may Allah take away the Covid-pandemic on the eve of his auspicious occasion,” he was quoted as having said by local news gatherer KNO.

Moments ahead of that, Omar Abdullah had announced it using his twitter saying that his mosque has announce the Eid. Taking on to Twitter, erstwhile state’s former chief minister Omar Abdullah announced the arrival of Shawaal. “Shawwal moon has now been sighted in the valley & my local mosque is announcing that tomorrow #EidAlFitr will be celebrated. Eid Mubarak to all of you.”

Reacting to the tweet, Omar was trolled and asked to say clearly, that the moon “was sighted in Pakistan.”

Urging people not to violate “social distancing”, Omar in another said “We marked Eid-al-Adah/Bakr Eid in August last year in the midst of a draconian lockdown & we got through it,” he said.

This year, interestingly, the four big groups of Islamic countries, the Arab groups, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and other Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Pakistan, all celebrated Eid on a single day.

In India, Kerala joined Kashmir in celebrating the Eid. Most of the coastal areas, especially Kerala celebrate Eid traditionally with the Arab world.

The Reactions

As the announcements were made, there were announcements from loudspeakers informing people about the Eid.

LT Gov G C Murmu greeted people on the occasion. “Lt Gov G C Murmu has greeted people of J&k on the auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. He hoped that the festival will promote inter-religious co-existence & instill the spirit of brotherhood/ harmony among the people of all faiths. He prayed for peace, progress & prosperity in J&K,” tweeted the UT’s information department.

Congress President of J&K UT, Ghulam Ahmad Mir expressed joy on the occasion. “On the occasion of Eid, I want to wish all a joyous Eid Mubarak,” he wrote on Twitter.

Newly floated Apni Party’s founding president Altaf Bukhari appealed people to adopt self-health protection. “Eid-u-Fitr marks the conclusion of the holy month of Ramazan and infuses the spirit of fraternity, brotherhood, and harmony. Greeting people on Eid, JKAP President appealed to adopt self-health protection and celebrate the festival,” was shared on the party’s Twitter handle.

“We wish a very Happy & prosperous Eid to families of #martyrs, Police & security forces Personnel their families and our followers on social media sites. Let us pray to God to give us the strength to fight the invisible enemy #Covid19 on this auspicious occasion,” shared the official Twitter handle of J&K Police.

However, no wish came from the central government ministers of the BJP led government. The rest of the country is celebrating Eid on Monday.

The Day

Amid the crisis of coronavirus, the festival to mark the end of fasting was, by and large, a low-key affair in Kashmir. With stringent restrictions, call for physical distancing, accessibility to the essentials, and the economic problems, the day passed in a grim.

The routine celebrations were not repeated.

The major activity of the day, congregation Eid prayers were not held. The main mosques and shrines were closed. Reportedly, people offered prayers either at home or locally early in the morning. “We prayed at home and had Imam sahib on Facebook live,” said Tauseef Ahmad, a resident of Anantnag.

Hospitality-Welcomed by traditional noon chai and Kashmiri bread, the houseboat owners greeted the people who had come to offer Eid prayer at Dal Lake banks on May 24 2020.KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

In another case of joint prayers, few men knocked on the door of their neighbour and requested him to lead the prayers. “Around 20 people participated in the prayers held in our lawn,” said Syed Sulaiman.

Given the pandemic and the possible reactions, this Eid, people say is completely different than the previous ones. Though, on the last Eid too, there were no congregation prayers at the major mosques and shrines. But it was not banned everywhere. Reacting to the development, a senior professor, Dr Mairaj Akram wrote on his Facebook, “In the wee hours found some people at the gates of the place of worship, they looked around and sneaked in like robbers to perform religious obligations. This invisible virus is strongly coming between people of faith & their worship.”

Thousands of families offered Eid prayers jointly in their halls and lawns. “All our family members came together and we offered prayers at the home,” Malik Qaisar said “I lead the prayers of my family, it was brief, interesting but the prayer it was,” added Altaf Ahmad, another resident of an old Srinagar.

The Tragedy

A curtailed celebration had another blow when the reports came from SMHS hospital in Srinagar revealed the death of a 65-year-old man from Srinagar. Injured in a house collapse after the Nawakadal encounter, the man succumbed in the morning. The deceased was identified as Manzoor Ahmad Khan. A resident of Masheli Mohalla, Hawal, Khan was rushed to the hospital after he got injured in the wall collapse on May 19, moments after the gun battle was declared over.

As the news spread, tensions were reported from certain pockets of the old city. As per the reports, there were some instances of clashes too.

A kid offer prayers on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr at Dal Lake in Srinagar on Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Srinagar. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

A few hours later, another injured from the same encounter site succumbed to his burn injuries in the same hospital. Identified as a 30-year-old Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, the deceased as per the hospital officials had “more than 90 percent burn injuries.” A resident of Nawakadal, he had visited the encounter site on Tuesday.

Earlier, a 12-year-old boy, Basim Ajaz died in the hospital, a day after he was injured in the Nawakadal.

The total death toll of the encounter has reached five, which includes three civilians and two militants. During the gunfight, three counter-insurgent forces personnel were injured and several houses were damaged as well.

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